What does a vegetarian bodybuilder eat

You are what you eat: organic, vegetarian and vegan (III)

Livening is the translation of the Latin term "vegetare" and fresh, lively, lively is the translation of "vegetus". The word vegetarian is derived from one or even both terms. Whether this form of nutrition is really that invigorating - especially for bodybuilders - you can find out in this article.

There are different forms of vegetarian diet. On the one hand there are the lacto-ovo vegetarians and on the other hand the vegans. "Ovo" means egg and "lacto" means milk. In addition to plant-based foods, a lacto-ovo vegetarian consumes products that come from living animals. Eggs, milk and honey should be mentioned at this point. Lacto-vegetarians also avoid eggs and ovo-vegetarians also avoid dairy products.

Vegan people do without all animal products. It should also be ensured in everyday life that products made of leather or wool are avoided.

The protein question: Can vegetarians or vegans meet their protein needs?

The supply of proteins via food is essential for the maintenance of muscles, for building muscle and for all other endogenous protein structures. For this reason there are also the well-known nine essential amino acids. These are the amino acids that the body cannot produce itself. It needs a total of 20 amino acids to build proteins.

The problem is that animal foods in particular provide valuable protein. This is probably the reason most muscle building diets are chicken-fed. Ignoring this, tuna, chicken, beef, and other lean meats and fish are closely associated with bodybuilding. One can speak of tradition. In addition, almost all animal proteins have a higher biological value than vegetable proteins.

In the scientific literature, the protein requirement is generally given as 0.34 grams per kilogram of body weight. The German Nutrition Society recommends 0.8 g protein per kilogram of body weight. A safety margin has been taken into account at this point.

Competitive athletes should take in a little more. The recommendations range from 0.9 to 3.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The question of whether the body gets enough protein to build muscle through a vegetarian diet is therefore entirely justified.

It is interesting that despite the high protein content in animal foods and the low protein content in plant foods, over 65% of protein intake worldwide is covered by plant foods. It is therefore possible to get enough protein from plant-based foods.

A vegan daily plan is described below as an example. I have not given any exact recipes as these would go beyond the scope of this article. However, these and similar meals can be checked at FDDB.
  • Breakfast: A muesli that contains oat and millet flakes, nuts and soy yoghurt and milk can provide around 20 g of protein for breakfast.
  • Having lunch: A serving of whole wheat pasta with lentil Bolognese can contain up to 30 g of protein.
  • Dinner: Couscous salad with coconut, chickpea and spinach provides more than 40 g of protein.
In summary, that is 90 g of protein and snacks are not yet taken into account.

300 ml of soy milk, for example, contain another 6 g of protein. 50 g almonds have more than 10 g protein. A vegetarian can therefore cover his protein needs. However, the more specific the waiver, the more planned the diet should be.

Is a vegan or vegetarian diet healthier?

As a personal trainer, course leader and athletic trainer for various teams, I was asked more and more often whether it is healthier to eat vegan or vegetarian. Sometimes there was even a statement that one would like to eat healthier and therefore avoid animal products. This should be viewed critically, since not using animal products does not only entail advantages such as a lower risk of diabetes and hypertension (Keller, 2014), but also risks.

The restricted diet can lead to an undersupply of many vitamins. The supply of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is particularly critical. Even the vegan associations recommend a sufficient intake of cobalamin from fortified foods, toothpaste or dietary supplements.

The reason for this were studies that have shown that between 40% and 80% of vegans are deficient in vitamin B12. Alternatively, an attempt can be made to meet the demand with the help of sauerkraut and certain algae.

The situation is similar for calcium. Overall, 50% of the population do not reach the recommended levels. On average, lacto-ovo vegetarian take in just as much calcium as they would with a diet without giving up. Vegans take in an average of 400 mg less per day. Studies show that vegans have lower bone density. The risk of osteoporosis is therefore higher. The reason is the lack of dairy products.

However, the demand can also be met with plants. Dark green vegetables and nuts should be mentioned at this point. Calcium-fortified soy milk is also a great choice to meet calcium needs.

In our population, iodine and vitamin D are mainly covered by dairy products. However, even with mixed dieters, the risk of a deficiency is very high. The supply of vegans is therefore even worse. In the case of table salt, particular care should be taken to ensure that it has been fortified with iodine. Furthermore, the solar radiation in the winter months is not sufficient in our latitudes. Supplementation is therefore particularly recommended between October and March, regardless of the diet (Leitzmann, 2010).

Other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B2 (riboflavin), iron and zinc should be observed, as the intake is slightly lower than that of mixed foodists. In general, however, vegans are also in a normal range.

Conclusion on the diet (as a bodybuilder)

The German Nutrition Society is still critical of the vegan diet. Especially in special phases of life such as pregnancy and breastfeeding. Although this DGE statement is criticized by many vegetarian and vegan associations, it is of interest to us consumers.

The vegetarian (ovo-lacto) diet can be implemented without hesitation, provided it is well planned. For bodybuilders and strength athletes, this means that a vegetarian or vegan diet is no better. You will hardly have any benefit in terms of performance or muscle building from a restricted diet.

If the ethical aspect is observed, I can only recommend limiting the meat intake. At this point, the recommendations above must be observed.

Personally, I hardly use any meat, a little fish, a lot of vegetables and fruit and a lot of carbohydrate sources such as rice, quinoa, pasta and bread in my diet. I cover my protein requirements with dairy products in particular. So I am not a vegan or a vegetarian, but try not to consume any animal products from factory farming - which of course does not always work.

I supplement my diet with vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, protein powder, HMB and creatine. I see the vegan trend genere very positively, but too many people implement this form of nutrition without informing themselves and without adapting the diet to their needs (such as bodybuilding).


  1. Claus Leitzmann and Markus Keller: Vegetarian Diet. Ulmer 2013 (3rd updated edition).
  2. DGE (2011): Vegan Diet: Nutrient Supply and Health Risks in Infancy and Childhood. Link.
  3. Leitzmann C, Keller M: Vegetarian Diet. UTB, Stuttgart (2010).
  4. Leitzmann C: Vegetarianism. Basics, advantages, risks. C.H. Beck, Munich (2001), 38
  5. Keller M.:UGBforumspezial: Vegan and wholesome food 2014, pp. 9-12.
  6. Kersting, M. (2008). Alternative diet. In Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (pp. 497-500). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
  7. Kugler, H. G. (2007). Eat vegetarian food - forget about meat: medical advice for vegetarians and vegans. Publisher Das Wort.
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  9. Oksanen, J., Kindt, R., Legendre, P., O’Hara, B., Stevens, M. H. H., Oksanen, M. J., & Suggests, M. A. S. S. (2007). The vegan package. Community ecology package.
  10. Barnard, N.D., Cohen, J., Jenkins, D. J., Turner-McGrievy, G., Gloede, L., Jaster, B., ... & Talpers, S. (2006). A low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes care, 29 (8), 1777-1783.
  11. Allen, N.E., Appleby, P.N., Davey, G.K., & Key, T.J. (2000). Hormones and diet: low insulin-like growth factor-I but normal bioavailable androgens in vegan men. British journal of cancer, 83 (1), 95.
  12. Rauma, A. L., Törrönen, R., Hänninen, O., & Mykkänen, H. (1995). Vitamin B-12 status of long-term adherents of a strict uncooked vegan diet ("living food diet") is compromised. The Journal of Nutrition, 125 (10), 2511-2515.

Picture:Katrin Morenz | F_H

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